Piano Quartet No.1 in b minor, Op.14
We are very pleased to reintroduce a work which we believe can hold its own against anything of its type from the same period. It is first class from start to finish. Although a youthful work, dating from 1891 when the composer was 25, this piano quartet clearly reveals that he was already in full mastery of technique and clearly a possessor of great melodic gifts.
Robert Kahn (1865-1951) was born in Mannheim of a well-to-do banking family. He began his studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. There, he got to know and became friends with Joseph Joachim who was the director. It was through both Joachim and his own family that he had a chance to get to know Brahms, who was so impressed with Kahn that he offered to give him composition lessons. However, Kahn was too overawed to accept. Nevertheless, Brahms did help Kahn informally, and while Kahn's work does, to some extent, show the influence of Brahms, he is an eclectic and independent composer whose music has its own originality. After finishing his studies in Berlin, Kahn, on Brahms' suggestion, went to Munich to study with Joseph Rheinberger. After completing his own studies, he worked for a while as a free lance composer before obtaining a position at the Hochschule in Berlin where he eventually became a professor of piano and composition.
The opening Allegro ma non troppo opens dramatically with a sense of urgency and much forward motion. The development is dark with a sense of striving and struggle. The lyrical and rather romantic second theme provides superb contrast. The lovely string writing evokes a sense of longing for things past. A marvelous slow movement, Andante, begins with a sense of calm and peace. One hears faint echoes of Schubert. Gradually the tempo picks up and the mood changes and we find that the music has turned into an intermezzo. The fiery finale, Allegro molto, wastes no time in grabbing the listener's attention with its frantic, restless, and highly rhythmic main theme. A second theme is softer but there is still an undercurrent of unrest.
Professionals are sure to enjoy a triumph if they bring this work into the concert hall while amateurs will revel in the fine part writing. We have improved on the original edition by adding rehearsal letters and correcting the errors.